Wikipedia now a reliable source for political information?

Wikipedia now a reliable source for political information?

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PROVO -- Since Wikipedia's inception in 2001, its accuracy has been the subject of much debate. According to BYU assistant professor of political science Adam Brown, when it comes to politicians' biographical facts, Wikipedia is accurate.

Brown studied 230 articles on Wikipedia about major-party candidates that ran for governor between 1998 and 2008. Brown found that all of the verifiable biographical information in those articles was completely accurate.

"My finding is optimistic for the health of our country," said Brown. "It doesn't have to be hard to learn about the political process or your political candidates."

One of the main concerns for pages about political candidates on Wikipedia was that politicians and advocates would have the ability to affect the accuracy of an article.

Brown came to another conclusion. "The more an issue is talked about, the more people are battling over it on Wikipedia," he said.

The study showed that as an issue became more prominent, its accuracy improved. Brown said that he found more facts missing among obscure or local political topics.

"I did find that younger politicians, even if they're inexperienced, have much more written about them," Brown said. "Which implies they're the ones writing it, because younger people use Wikipedia more, overall."

Brown's study supports previous research that showed Wikipedia may not be far off in accuracy compared to more authoritative sources such as Britannica. Brown did warn however that even though his study showed that Wikipedia is accurate, that it should not be cited by students in their research.

"Wikipedia, just like any encyclopedia, is not a primary source," Brown said. "It's not a secondary source, it is just a summary of information is out there. If they want to start on Wikipedia, great, but they need at some point go to the sources that Wikipedia is citing and get more information."

Email:Matt Hopkins

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